Home > "ZUFFA" rankings, MMA, UFC > The Explanation of My (Not So) Much-Anticipated (Blog) UFC Ranking System

The Explanation of My (Not So) Much-Anticipated (Blog) UFC Ranking System

I’ve been meaning to do this for months (it might actually be closing in on a year now), but what better time than now — several days before yet another UFC event that will render these outdated — for me to publish my UFC rankings on this here blog?

The reason I’ve been dragging my feet for so long on posting these is, basically, because I feel obligated to explain the process behind the tabulation of the ratings. And that’s the purpose of this particular post — the rankings themselves will come later. The super short explanation goes like this: I’ve applied the same principles FIFA uses to rank international soccer sides to UFC fights. What this means, essentially, is that I take four years worth of fight results, weight them based on how recent the fights are (multipliers range from 0.2 to 1.0 based on the 12-month period in which a fight falls) as well as the quality of opposition, and come up with a numerical value for each fighter. Because MMA and soccer have some inherent differences, however, I had to tailor some of the multipliers involved in terms of fixture/fight prestige, as well as how victory is achieved. In the case of soccer, the results-based multipliers (blatantly copied and pasted from Wikipedia) are as follows:

Result Points
Win (no penalty shootout) 3
Win (penalty shootout) 2
Draw 1
Loss (penalty shootout) 1
Loss (no penalty shootout) 0

The easy way to do this probably would’ve been to just disregard anything related to a penalty shootout. But the prevailing mentality in UFC, or at least those running things there, tends to be that it’s better for fighters to finish fights and keep their fate out of the hands of the judges. It makes perfect sense, and therefore I concluded that I would award the 3-point multiplier to fighters who finished their opponent, and award a 2-point multiplier to victors through decision. The rest is fairly straight-forward: a draw is a draw, and keeps its one-point multiplier while a loss, even in the case of a decision, is worth 0. Just to be clear about all of this, I’ll create a table of my own. (That is, I’ll type this into Excel and then copy it over here so as to make it look nothing like the Wikipedia table.):

Result Points
Win (Knockout or Submission) 3
Win (Decision) 2
Draw 1
Loss 0
No Contest 0

There shouldn’t be any real big surprises there. The area that could be up for greater debate is the values I’ve assigned for fight status. First, a look at the FIFA version:

Match status Multiplier
Friendly match x 1.0
FIFA World Cup and Continental cup qualifiers x 2.5
Continental cup and Confederations Cup finals x 3.0
World Cup finals match x 4.0

Obviously, there aren’t any cup matches in the Ultimate Fighting Championship, so I needed to determine what the equivalents to each of these events was. The easiest equivalents I came up with were prelim fights as friendlies and championship fights as World Cup finals equivalents. The rest is probably open for debate, but here’s what I came up with:

Fight status Multiplier
Preliminary Fight 1
Cable TV Undercard 1
PPV Undercard 2
Broadcast TV Undercard 2
Non-Championship Cable TV Main Event 2.5
Non-Championship PPV Semi-Main Event 2.5
Non-Championship PPV Main Event 3
Non-Championship Broadcast TV Main Event 3
Championship Fight 4

Sorry, Spike, Fuel, Ion, FX, Versus, and I’m sure I’m missing somebody — your fights aren’t as important as the ones Fox or pay-per-view. Sorry, Dana, prelims on TV are still prelims. And even if they aren’t, they’re still on cable, so double whammy. I should note, however, that “numbered” UFC shows that have aired on Spike in the past are still counted as pay-per-views since I’m pretty certain they hold that distinction internationally.

Actually, while I’m thinking along the lines of fine print, there are a couple other things to note: The rankings I’m using now do include pre-merger WEC fights for the weight classes that UFC absorbed when the organizations were merged. They do not, however, include fights from duplicate weight classes, so it’s basically as though WEC fights at 155 never happened. And speaking of weight classes, I do not record catchweight fights that were necessitated by a fighter missing weight unless the fighter who missed weight also loses the fight. In short, fighting against someone who failed to make weight is a no-lose situation as far as this exercise goes.

If nothing else, these modified FIFA rankings (which it took me way too much time to begin identifying as the “ZUFFA” rankings [a moniker that I somehow expect would be short-lived if they and/or a large scale audience ever caught wind of this]) are a neat little exercise to track some of the lesser known UFC fighters on their way up and into championship contention. Because championship fights are so heavily weighted, the system demonstrates a bias towards long-reigning, fighting champions. It also rewards durability, so long as that durable entity routinely doubles as a victorious one. Conversely, UFC newcomers will generally take time to climb to the upper echelon in the rankings even if, just hypothetically, they march into the company, destroy a top heavyweight, and boot that top heavyweight into retirement. In fact, newcomers will not even appear in the rankings until they fight (this seems inherently obvious, but why not spell it out anyway?) even if they appear on the UFC.com roster page which, by the way, is how I will assess which fighters appear in the published rankings list. (I think this is the best way of going about it even though I could technically publish a list of every fighter in every weight class after every show. I don’t think anyone cares to watch Sokoudjou’s ranking dwindle while he can’t do anything about it, though.)

I like to think that I’ve covered everything that needs to be covered as far as explaining the actual system goes, even if that’s likely wishful thinking. The fun parts will be on their way through the rest of the week in advance of UFC 142 this Saturday, and then, looking at the schedule, pretty damn regularly afterward. (Hey, easy content is probably better than no content.) For now, though, I’m glad that this part of the process is behind me.

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